Is Ballinlea the next Balcombe?

Following the huge and well-publicised protests against exploratory drilling in Balcombe (Sussex), Ballinlea, near Ballycastle in County Antrim, could well be the next focus of protests against on-shore oil and gas exploration. A similar application for drilling an exploratory well 2,700 metres (1.6 miles) deep has been made in Ballinlea, which could lead to fracking if a commercially viable reserve of shale gas is discovered. The energy company, Rathlin Energy Ltd, have stated that they will not rule out hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The DOE are currently consulting on this planning application.

A number of locals have formed the Ballinlea Residents Group to object to this activity and to raise public awareness of the matter. They make the point that, although the initial drilling application is not for fracking, research shows that the process of drilling wells of such depth bring serious environmental and public health concerns with them.

“Conventional drilling will result in the same chemicals and same carcinogens being released into our environment”, said Ivor Ramage, spokesperson for Ballinlea Residents Group. “The proposed borehole is only 80 metres from the nearest residential property and we feel that adequate impact assessments and mitigations (health and safety, environmental and socio-economic) have not been submitted by the energy company. This is our greatest initial concern.

“However, we are also seriously concerned at the potential industrial scale of this project, which could establish commercial oil or gas wells across the north coast at a density of four wells per square mile if conventionally drilled, or four per square kilometre if fracking is employed, with all the resultant traffic, noise, water and air pollution and public health issues.

“We want to protect our clean water, clean air and productive farmland and preserve them for future generations. We want to see every effort devoted to developing tidal energy, solar and wind power rather than desperate attempts to extend our dependence on finite fossil fuel.”

Ballinlea Residents Group are looking for support.  For more information and details of how to support their campaign, please visit www.facebook.com/ballinlearesidentsgroup or email: ballinlearesidents@gmail.com

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